Fitzhugh: Cutting State Spending ‘Unfair, Unrealistic, Unnecessary’

Press Release from Tennessee House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, Nov. 30, 2015:

Fitzhugh Rejects Haslam Call for Budget Cuts

Nashville, TN: House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) pushed back today on Governor Bill Haslam’s (R) call for more across the board cuts to essential state services. This comes as the administration begins five-days of budget hearings in Nashville.

“Tennessee budgets are already super lean,” said Leader Fitzhugh who previously served as Chairman of the Finance, Ways & Means Committee from 2005-2011 under both Democratic and Republican majorities. “We have cut through the fat, into the muscle and I fear are headed for bone with more arbitrary cuts.”

With current state revenue collection exceeding estimates by almost $300 million, Governor Haslam has directed his commissioners to prepare budgets for FY 16-17 that reflect a 3.5 percent reduction in funding. This cut would be in addition to the 7 percent reduction to state services requested by Governor Haslam in 2014.

“The Department of Corrections has faced a shortfall of nearly $100 million. Many teachers never saw the 4 percent raise they were promised. Our roads and bridges have a backlog of maintenance projects, while last year’s budget raised property taxes on disabled veterans by 20 percent. More arbitrary cuts are cruel and simply do not make good budgeting sense.”

Economists for Governor Haslam’s Department of Revenue, along with Dr. Bill Fox of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the Haslam School of Business have predicted revenue growth in FY 2016-2017 of up to $525 million. This is in stark contrast to the $348 million growth estimate upon which Governor Haslam and the State Funding Board are constructing their budget.

“Governor Haslam has promised much-needed raises for our corrections officers. He has said he wants to make teacher salaries the fastest growing in the nation. To make these kinds of promises, while asking for more haphazard cuts from each department is unfair, unrealistic and unnecessary. We can and should do better”

Leader Fitzhugh along with members of the House Democratic Caucus plan to introduce their own alternative budget this spring based on more accurate revenue estimates.

Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) currently serves as the House Minority Leader. He was previously Chairman of the Finance, Ways & Means Committee from 2005-2009 under a Democratic majority and from 2009-2011 under a Republican majority.